My job is to essentially engineer, design, and build parts that otherwise do not exist. I am often tasked with creating a better functioning product for my Clients' that are not interested in bolting on the average off-the-shelf part made by whatever company holding the title of This weeks popularity contest winner. I absolutely love what I do for my clients, and I always appreciate their loyalty to my skills and product.
It is because of this title and position in my profession that I have been able to set my "fall back" position aside and focus on the higher end of the industry. After more than a decade of slinging brake jobs, timing belts, head gaskets, and other common repairs to pay the bills in between fabrication jobs, I have risen up to the point where I can turn down those maintenance requests even during my slow season.
It is very rare that I take on a Maintenance Project (as I call them). They are often filled with dozens of repairs that typically result in more problems. Many of these projects have been tinkered with by a few shady wrench throwers chasing the all mighty dollar which typically results in very half-assed mechanical repairs. Other times, the project has simply been sitting for too long. In either case, the correct repair to one component will often break the next.
Being in the industry for as long as I have, I have learned a couple of very important things. One very important lesson is that there are very few people in this world that like to hear the price of your service keeps increasing as you work. In fact, I haven't met a single person yet that has enjoyed this kind of expensive news. I've also learned that you really can't let something out the door that isn't your very best. At the end of the day, who are you helping with offering a crappy service? Your wallet may like you for a brief moment, but it will sure show its empty side when you keep seeing the same problem return because you didn't do it right the first time.
This is the point where I start talking about Tim. My client relationship with Tim began with his boosted Hemi Ram. There is a long story that accompanies how I got involved with that truck, but lets say that after 10 years of problems with performance, other shops (and their lack of solutions), and a handful of "band-aid" type fixes to his truck, I made it all right in a matter of a day. Tim was so pleased with the now problem free corrections done to his truck that he asked if I could tackle his other pride: a C3 Corvette.
Professional mechanics, DIY'ers, project flippers, and builders alike can understand what it feels like to hear the words "I took it to another shop and it's just not the same anymore." Just as Tim's truck had its mix of shady shop antics over the years, the C3 did as well. I understood the gist of what was wrong with the car and what was likely needed to fix it. In the back of my mind I knew I could fix it, but I definitely didn't want to spend another fortune trying to get something right when it should have been done the first few times.
There was one vibe I did catch while I was talking to Tim about his beloved 'Vette. There seemed to almost be a lost faith in it when he spoke. It almost felt like there were lost times or an emotion associated with the car that I would never know. I know he loves his car. I can also tell he can't stand seeing it in the condition it is in. Lets face it, the car has seen a lot of hands and it still isn't where he wants to see it. At the end of the conversation, I knew that I was the cars last chance. If Tim trusts my skills to give it one last go, I'm going to make sure I give it my all.
Under the hood of the the C3 wasn't all that bad. I had to chase down a couple shorts, clean some shoddy tape jobs and zip tie repairs, and replace a few worn out maintenance items. It was no big deal. As anticipated, one part repaired meant another part broke, and the problems associated with the car sitting for so long really showed. Like many other projects of this magnitude, I made half a dozen trips to the parts store and definitely shouted many words and terms reminiscent of my Sailor days. Either way, I finished the job and this C3 is ready for another great run of fun freeway blasting and long cruises.
While I do charge a price for my labor, I am not completely greedy about it. One result of sitting for a couple years was the chrome under the hood losing a bit of luster. This is an inexpensive fix to replace, but it wasn't on the top of the priority list (it wasn't even on the list at all). I did end up replacing the valve cover gaskets and a couple other small oil leaks to the small block power plant, but while I had all the covers off, I figured "What's 5 minutes to restore a little faith going to hurt?" Yes, I chose to use the word faith.
Five minutes sitting at my buffer with a good cutting compound definitely brought back the shine under the hood. That's all it took - just 5 minutes. That 5 minutes of unplanned free labor will likely restore the faith Tim has in his ride. Maybe he will like to take a few of those moments to pop the hood at every gas stop just to look at it while pretending to check the oil. Maybe he will want to spend hours in the driveway just staring at the car reflecting on some really great memories while smiling about the opportunity to make new ones. I just hope this is the last of his car problems and we can now move forward.